State of the Union Address

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By K. Levek

President Barack Obama gave his first second-term State of the Union (SOTU) address February 9th and took some strong stances on issues facing America.  In an aggressive speech, he called on broad measures, increasing minimum wage, gun control, budget negotiations, immigration reform and climate initiatives to address environment.

The president laid out his plans for his second-term agenda, with his speech focusing heavily on the economy and jobs. He called for the revival of what he called a “rising, thriving middle class,” and pledged to fight for a higher minimum wage, as well as more investment in schools. He asserted that he would address deficit reduction plans through tax increases and spending cuts.

The president did offer some new proposals including increasing the minimum wage and guaranteeing that every preschool-aged child would have adequate access to preschool.  However, many of the ideas he pushed were previously offered but went nowhere in a divided Congress.

One of the biggest moments of the night came when the president introduced the First Lady’s guests, victims of gun violence in Chicago.  Days after his 57th Inauguration, a 15 year-old girl in his hometown of Chicago, Hadiya Pendleton, who participated in the inaugural parade, was gunned down in a park about a mile away from his family’s home there.  Both her parents were in the audience sitting next to Michelle Obama.

He also mentioned the recent gun violence in Newton, CT, Oregon and other cities and also acknowledged former Democratic Arizona U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot weeks before his state of the union address in January 2011.  The president said over and over, “They deserve a vote” speaking about all the recent victims of gun violence.  His chant brought most of the crowd to a standing ovation and some even to tears as he continued to speak about the need for gun control reform in the country.

The president said issues of poverty and school violence, and more engagement from parents, could do more good than simply putting additional laws on the books.

The President also called for reform the way American’s vote.  He said the process is too complicated and long and people should not have to wait 5 or 6 hours just to vote.  There was a 102-year old voter in the audience, Desline

It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country — the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love,” Obama said, a theme of his campaign in 2012.

He also emphasized economic growth and job creation, citing how many major factories are bringing back their major hubs to hard hit communities in order to boost economic growth in those areas.  He proposed a $1 billion investment to create 15 institutes to develop new manufacturing technologies, highlighting the success in Youngstown, Ohio.

He called for a “smarter government” to act in the best interests of the American public.  He said, “Every day we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation: How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills to get those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”  He proposed increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00 an hour.

Further, he spoke about the country’s war in Afghanistan and said that 34,000 troops would return home from Afghanistan by this time next year. That withdrawal, representing slightly more than half the current American force, underlined his resolve to quickly wind down the second war of his presidency.

He also took a firm stance on tax reform, saying that he will eliminate hundreds of billions of dollars in “tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and the well-connected.”

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